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Divine Providence Ordered the Choice of a Vocation and Decided the Course of A Life
by David T. Myers

Our title for this post is a long one, but it was certainly the case for our featured character today, namely, David Blair. Born November 21, 1787, David was the eighth of eleven children born in the parish of Donagor, County Antrim, Ireland, to Hugh and Jane Blair. They all attended a Presbyterian church until for some unknown reason, they transferred their membership to a Seceder Presbyterian church in the same county. In good weather, the local Covenanter pastor would preach in the barns and groves of their fields. But in time, the whole family decided to travel to America for a new life. With a family this large, some five different times were scheduled to take the family to the American colonies. The part of the family which included young David, took 66 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean, landing at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

Upon landing, the family traveled by wagon to Pittsburgh, and on to Steubenville, Ohio, where a married daughter was living with her family. Eventually, the entire family moved to Crawford County in Pennsylvania, where several hundred acres were purchased and cabins built for the family. At this time, David Blair was around sixteen years of age. Reading a book which his older brother had given him, the young teen was encouraged to apply to the gospel ministry in 1805. Attendance at Jefferson College in Canonsburg and eventually at the theological Seminary of the Associate Presbyterian Church, David began his preparation for the ministry, pursuing those studies diligently. Licensed to preach on August 29, 1816, David received a call from three Congregations in Pennsylvania. However, rather than immediately receiving it, David begged for an opportunity to travel for a year in ministry throughout the South. He did that on horseback, and then returned to the three congregations. Eventually, he was ordained on October 7, 1818, a full two years after he had been licensed for the ministry. Married to Margaret Steele of Huntington in 1821, she proved to be the woman who helped him greatly in his life and ministry. Forty-four years of pastoral ministry characterized his service to His God and church in Pennsylvania.

Another minister summed up those pastoral laborers saying, “David Blair remains like the venerable oak that has withstood many storms and tempests. Many in his congregations look to him as their spiritual father. He baptized you in infancy. He first gave you the emblems of a Savior’s broken body. He joined you in marriage with the companions whom you call the fathers and mothers of your children. His deep toned voice and direct prayer has gone up from your chambers of sickness. His venerable form has led the processions that carried your loved ones to the grave. Thiese congregations should still honor him as their spiritual father.” David Blair would go on to glory on February 28, 1882.

And so, by this post, we authors and readers own him as one of the spiritual fathers of the church in America, who faithfully labored in small and large fields of ministry, faithfully proclaiming the blessed Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Words to Live By:
Reader! Think of some pastoral minister who was instrumental by God’s Spirit to be that one who was described in the above paragraphs as “the venerable oak” to you and yours. Thank God for him right now. Reflect on how he was used of the Holy Spirit to minister God’s Word to you and your family for a time, carrying out the ministerial actions mentioned in the above paragraphs. Question? If still alive, has he been the recipient of your gratitude spoken and written? Can you not return the spiritual favors rendered by various means, perhaps even monetary gifts, in time of need? Writing as a retired pastor, I can recount with joy various expressions of gratitude, even monetary, which former members of my  several congregations have given to me. Do other pastors need to hear some such encouragement from you?

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The First Presbyterian Congregation in America?

This writer puts a question mark in our title simply because there are several churches which claim to be the first Presbyterian Church in the colonies.  Each of them presents its claim with good evidence. Sometimes a claim is based on the existence of at least one elder. Or the stated date of organization might be based on when Bible studies first began in a given location, or when a building was first occupied by the congregation. Time and poorly kept records leave all of this unclear. But what is clear about Rehoboth Presbyterian Church in Rehoboth, Delaware is, that it is the first Presbyterian Church built by the Father of American Presbyterianism, namely, Francis Makemie.

“Our mission was from Jesus Christ, and warranted from the Scriptures.”—Makemie.

There are actually two dates of October 15 associated with Makemie.  The first one took place in 1699 when the Irish immigrant minister appeared before the County Court of Accomac to request permission to preach the gospel in Virginia.  Many Christians, and especially Christian Presbyterians do not realize that those minister/missionaries outside of the Anglican faith had to apply for licenses to preach the gospel.  Further, if you were not attending an Anglican, or we would say today, an Episcopal church, there could be civil penalties for not attending church.  He asked permission to preach at two homes.  It was on October 15, 1699 that permission was given to him.  Later on, an Act of Toleration was granted for all ministers to freely worship and proclaim Christ’s truth.  But before that, preachers could be arrested and held in jail for daring to preach without a license.  Francis Makemie himself was arrested in New York for doing just that.

The other date associated with this date of October 15, 1706 was when Rehoboth Presbyterian  Church of Maryland, was opened by the Rev. Francis Makemie.   Rehoboth meant “There is Room.”  Later in the eighteen hundreds, there was a great deal of physical construction done to the one floor church.  Today this church continues on and it is currently a congregation of the PC(USA) in Rehoboth, Delaware.

Words to live by:  Suppose the Rev. Francis Makemie had not come to the shores of the American colonies, saying that it was too far, too expensive, too dangerous, and whatever excuse might be offered?  Humanly speaking, we might not be writing a Presbyterian blog because there would have been no Presbyterian presence in the land.  But that is “humanly speaking.” The truth is that the sovereign God ordained in the colonies that there be Christian Presbyterians as one of the key ingredients of our forefather’s faith.  And did they ever come!  Thousands upon thousands came over the Atlantic Ocean.  And from our earliest days, the Bible of Presbyterianism was presented as the infallible Word of God, and God added to Himself a church, such as Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, in Delaware.

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